Birds, Leps, Observations & Generalities - the images and ramblings of Mark Skevington. Sometimes.

Sunday, 31 March 2019

There Be Dragons

Whilst I can, I'm posting a few lizardy bits from our Caribbean holiday. I always think that no holiday abroad is complete without seeing a lizard or two, and in Europe this is usually a wall lizard of some variety and maybe a gecko. This was something else as we found lizards pretty much everywhere, and some of them were relatively big.

I've managed to identify a few of them, some with more confidence than others, but aside from these I've got photos of a quite a few other small brown jobs that I'll leave for now.

Green Iguana - Saint Martin
I was completely unprepared for these beach dragons loafing on barrier rocks around a harbour on the French half of the island, and then we soon noticed that they were all over the place including loafing around a beach-side bar that we stopped at. The fully mature adults were a variety of colours, but the smaller younger individuals were generally a bright green. As far as I understand these were introduced, don't know when but whenever it was it preceded a rapid island extinction of the indiginous Lesser Antillean Iguana within 20 years.

Caribbean Ameiva - Sint Marten
Over on the Dutch half of the island, I saw quite a few of these loafing around the edge of a car park next to a big salt pool. They were not as accomodating as the iguanas for photos though and scooted off as soon as I approached.

Giant Ameiva - Grenada
There were loads of these loafing in sunshine on the grassy hillsides heading up to Fort George.

St Vincent Bush Anole - St Vincent
These were abundant around a botanical garden that we visited.

Carrot Rock Anole - Tortola, British Virgin Islands
At least that's what I think they are, again in a botanical garden (we split our time between beaches and sun, and soothing gardens and rain forest!).

The rest are as yet unknown, but I thought they looked funky enough to post.

This was on Tortola, can't see a match so far.

On Grenada, it is perhaps just a juvenile Giant Ameiva.

These were on Dominica, several together on same tree.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Scarce Fungal Infection

Whilst at KQ yesterday it seemed that I couldn't stop bumping into these ......

Scarce Fungus Weevil

I really like these, quite stupid looking but they have an unfathomable charm. I also like the way they manage to lood like bits of dried-up bird shit both ways up. Anyway I found five yesterday, three whilst looking at piles of dead wood and a couple whilst poking about in Cramp Ball fungi.

Brazenly sitting out waiting to be found

Hiding in a hole behind larval dinner

I'm assuming that the individuals I found on dead wood piles (where no Cramp Ball fungus was evident) have just used this as a winter refuge, but not entirley sure. On this particular tree, I found a couple of the weevils and also set about cutting a couple of Cramp Balls open.

You can have your King Alfred's Cake and eat it

Within one of the balls I found a couple of another fungal-eating beetle ...

Biphyllus lunatus - substantially smaller than the weevils it shares dinner with

Right next to one of the balls on the aforementioned tree, I also found a Psychid case that I'm not at all convinced about. It doesn't look right for Narycia duplicella which is the most likely species in VC55, and it doesn't match other species I've seen before. I've retained the case but no idea if it is tenanted with a pupa (possible at this time of year) or vacated.

I also noticed this on another trunk in the same area ...

Diurnea fagella - female

Another more surprising find in a part-broken Cramp Ball was this new-for-me spider ...

Snake-back Spider (Segestria senoculata)

Otherwise; I saw and heard Raven, Red Kite, Kestrel and Buzzard whilst mooching about, bumped into a couple of Muntjac that stopped and looked at me briefly before sloping off as I tried in vain to prep the camera, saw a good few butterflies including Orange-tip and also a couple of early Common Heath moths.

Here's a few other random bits.

Dark-edged Bee Fly - abundant!

Two-toothed Door Snail (Clausilia bidentata)

White-legged Snake Millipede - (Tachypodoiulus niger)

Uncooperative Heliophanus flavipes

Some sort of beetle larva with a woodlouse I can't be arsed to check

Friday, 29 March 2019

Snakes and Tigers

I've had a brilliant long day out in the sunshine at Ketton Quarry over in the east of Rutland. I'm sure I've mentioned many times before how much I love this reserve, and despite it being early in the season I still managed to find a few bits.

Part of the appeal is that there are diverse habitats within the reserve. It is a long worked-out area of limestone extraction, but is now made up of compartments of hills and holes that have been colonised by calcareous grassland plants and scrub. There is also some open mixed woodland, a deep cutting and a dense dark beech woodland planted in the 1920s. Usually there are one or two like-minded souls knocking about but generally you can mooch about between the areas in complete solitude and peace. The exception is the main geology trail area near the entrance where people generally come and go looking for butterflies and reptiles. The reserve runs on the boundary of the working quarry that seems to be getting bigger and now has 1000s of solar panels in situ.

I go there early-ish and spent a good hour looking for snakes with no joy, after pottering about for another hour or so I nipped off for a quick bite in Stamford. When I got back early afternoon I bumped into Andy Neilson who pointed me towards a pair of Adders that he'd seen. I could just about see a female with a bright male in attendance, but as I grabbed my camera I was aware of another duller male heading straight towards the scene. The two males then chased each other around for a bit before the female sloped off into a densely covered mound of rocks. Not the most open views I ever had of Adders, but the interaction and activity was great to watch for an hour.

Female with partially hidden brighter male

Slightly duller male

The duller male heading off

The brighter male giving chase ....

... and coming back towards me

I've not seen Adders here for a while, and by all accounts the population has dwindled a bit in recent years. It was great to catch up with them, just a shame the views were not better for photos. No Grass Snakes seen today, and no Common Lizards seen but I heard plenty skitting off into the undergrowth as I walked around.

I found a few bits that I will post another day, but one I wasn't expecting to see so early in the year was along the boundary track bewteen the reserve and the working quarry ....

Note a few solar panels on left, and a distant view of the quarry processing plant

I saw at least 15 Green Tiger Beetles along here, not that they were easy to get close too.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Being Birched

Way back on 25/03/2005 I'd headed over to Kinchley Lane that runs between Swithland Reservoir and Buddon Wood (a reminder again for the birders, it's where that Crag Martin was in 1999). Whilst there I managed to net two Eriocraniids - neither of which looked right for Dyseriocrania subpurpurella and both of which looked interesting. Turned out I was a very lucky man indeed; one was Eriocrania cicatricella, the other was Eriocrania unimaculella and both were confirmed firsts for VC55. Both feed on birch, of which there is plenty available. I managed to net a single E. cicatricella the following year, but have failed to produce any more records of either since.

Eriocrania cicatricella - Kinchley Lane 25/03/2005

Eriocrania unimaculella - Kinchley Lane 25/03/2005

Today I headed over there again for a bit of fresh air and sunshine whilst mooching about. Almost immediately after getting out of the car, I picked up a couple of Orange Underwings with my bins - no chance of one coming close enough to be netted ot photographed. Ravens were cronking, Great Spots calling and Chiffchaffs singing, all adding to the very welcome springtime ambience.

Soon afterwards I noticed a couple of butterflies nectaring on catkins, but both were backlit so I thought I'd get a couple of shots to see how they turned out.



Just after taking these shots, I noticed a golden Eriocraniid on a dead oak twig just under my nose. That's just about the same time that I realised I'd made a schoolboy error ... camera battery died. I'm so used to it lasting for ages that I'd not checked if it needed charging after use yesterday. Arse. So I duly potted the moth, and as I did so I noticed a darker individual on the wall and potted that too. And I then failed to find any more over the next hour or so that I was there. I found a few bits on the walls, like Bristly Millipedes, Taleporia tubulosa, a couple of beetles to check and (oddly) a Saucer Bug. But with the camera dead there are no shots.

I did point my phone at the lane and the birches though, but I managed to screw that up too as the phone camera was set to some odd 'full screen' mode that meant the photos are an odd ratio. Still I quite liked them so some got cropped and some are almost 2:1. Something oddly nice about a birch woodland I reckon.

Later this afternoon, after the camera had been charged up, I grabbed a couple of quick snaps of the two Eriocraniids that I potted up. I'm certain one is just Dyseriocrania subpurpurella (there are a few oaks dotted amongst the birches) but the other is definitely a different species, slightly bigger and looks a good contender for Eriocrania semipurpurella which I've not seen before. One for the chop.

Dyseriocrania subpurpurella - 28/03/2019

Eriocrania semipurpurella? - 28/03/2019